Monday, 7 September 2009
BY SHAIBU HUSSEINI
THE members of the Nigerian Selection Committee for ION International Film Festival scheduled for Port Harcourt in December 2009 — Bond Emeruwa, Sani Muazu, Emmanuel Nsikaku, Sewedo Nupowaku and Shaibu Husseini — has just rounded up their meeting aimed at assisting the organisers to source Nigerian movies that will be part of the programme at OMCOMM studio, Ikoyi. Soledad Grognett, Creative Director of the studio and facilitators of the festival briefed members on the level of preparations. “We are doing well with planning. We have called for entries, which will close on September 30 and also have a website — www.ionfilmfest.com or www.omcomm.org — with all the information participants may require. The only snag, he adds, is the slow disposition of some corporate organisations in identifying with the aspiration of the festival. “We are faced with raising awareness on the impact a strong alliance of corporates including financial and insurance sector can have in the development of the entertainment sector, which clearly builds on Nigeria’s biggest resource — its people and job creation. Moviedom spoke with the creative director, who has worked with Live Aid’s producer Hal Uplinger in the Millennium Television show, and produced socio-economic reports featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today, Forbes Magazines and The Times before landing in Nigeria to set up with two partners Omcomm Ltd.
What is ION film festival all about and why the choice of not just Nigeria, but a state in the Niger Delta as Rivers?
ION International Film Festival is an international film festival that promotes peace, unity and global awareness. It’s a 4-day programme with opening/closing galas, film screenings, workshops, networking events, industry fora, concerts, parties and cocktails. This year ION will land for the first time in Africa and will be hosted in Port Harcourt, Nigeria on 9-12 December 2009. It was in Los Angeles in 2004-2007, moved to Dubai in 2008 and will come to Port Harcourt for its 6th edition. IONIFF Port Harcourt ‘09 celebrates global filmmaking while zooming the lens on the talents and potential of Nollywood. The choice of Port Harcourt as the Host City and first ever-international film festival in Nigeria is aligned with the aim of ION to promote peace and global awareness through arts including movies and music. Port Harcourt is vibrant, creative and Rivers State is a masterpiece of natural beauty. We want the world — and Nigerians themselves — to see there is so much more about Port Harcourt and the Niger Delta than what repeatedly reaches the news. There is so much creative energy and talents residing in the Niger Delta, Nigeria and Africa, which are largely unknown to the world. IONIFF Port Harcourt09 offers an opportunity to generate and communicate new messages, which originate from the region through media and movies to shift domestic and international perceptions about the region, the country, the people and Africa. ION emphasises the vital role that art, culture and entertainment have in the achievement of peace in the Niger Delta. We strongly believe that the entertainment industry is the only industry that can bring light to a region that is blessed with natural resources, but darkened by crude oil. The festival will host about 200 international guests including Nollywood, Hollywood, Bollywood and European celebrities; captains of industries, artistes. The theme of the movies that will comprise the official selection is Movies That Move — a global stage, a celebration of artistes — the art of storytelling and filmmaking. We want filmmakers from all over Nigeria and the world to feel the energy of Port Harcourt, Rivers State and the Niger Delta that we have felt from the first time we visited, to believe in it and to enjoy what it has to offer. We hope to generate new messages through this exposure for the state and the region through movies.
Production is on course. We are partnering with the Rivers State Ministry of Culture and Tourism to promote peace, the people, arts, culture and movies. The festival is welcomed in Nigeria, it’s receiving substantial attention from key Nollywood stakeholders which have been working with us to ensure the right exposure of local content in the art of movie making. ION aims to contribute to raising awareness on the immense impact a strong alliance of corporate including financial sector and insurance sector can have in the development of the entertainment sector, which clearly builds on Nigeria’s biggest resource - its people and job creation. ION has built a strong multifaceted production team with a good combo of local and international expertise, in addition to working with Nigerian Committee members such as Madame Catherine Ruelle with more than 30 years experience in African Cinema along with ION’s LA team to ensure quality content and variety of films in the official selection. IONIFF Port Harcourt ‘09 has received film submissions from more than 17 different countries around the world in addition to many Nigerian films submitted.
Any sign that Nigeria’s hosting will surpass others of the past
Absolutely, all signs are pointing in that direction. Nigeria is a unique spot in the world — Nigerians are the happiest people in the world and love celebrations — so, all indicates that the Port Harcourt edition will be by far the best of the 6 editions. And let us not forget to mention Nollywood’s exceptional growth and rating as the 2nd biggest movie industry in the world, which reflects the vast untapped potential and impact this industry will generate. There’s a long overdue recognition of Nigerian and African talents and we are committed to celebrate and showcase them in partnership with Rivers State Ministry of Culture and Tourism, who is empowering the people through arts and culture. This 6th Edition has much more prospect than ever before; it’s the first time in Africa and Nigeria. Its presence will further expose Nollywood, which is still very much unknown to the world and draw attention to the Niger Delta crisis. We want Nollywood to meet Hollywood and Bollywood to celebrate Movies that Move and art as a vehicle to promote peace in the Niger Delta. We believe in the power of the artistes to make a difference.
How ready is the host State, Rivers?
Rivers State has been ready since they invited ION International Film Festival to Port Harcourt. They have excellent organisational machinery, which has produced amazing international events before. They are the best partners to have in the production of ION. The state is very committed to shifting minds and perceptions and re-focusing their youths to alternative ways of wealth creation. They have been working very hard to meet the international standards required by ION and have also been very aligned to its belief in the power of art as a vehicle of change. The Host State is fully committed to produce a great event that will make not just Rivers State, but Nigerians proud.
What kind of reception and responses are you getting from your host industry practitioners and regulatory institutions? Is the NFC- the Nigerian Film Corporation and may be the Censors Board anywhere near your support pool?
Nigerian institutions have been very receptive, NFC is on board, we went to the National Film Institute, Jos, and they offered their full support in reaching out to students; the Nigerian Guild of Directors, MOPPAN, Film and Video Producers and Marketers Association, CORA, National Film and Video Censors Board, ITPAN Independent Television Producers Association of Nigeria, Nollywood Foundation, the Federal Ministry of Information are in support of our vision.
So, will it just be about entering films. What would be the benefit of the average Nollywood practitioner from festival?
We work together with local and international talents in the design and production, which will make Nollywood and local filmmakers to work alongside with their international counterparts in a market-like event to dialogue with international content producers and distributors that are interested in Africa. Not just about submitting films for competition, but there’s a lot more that can be explored by professionals that are looking at establishing new networks or technical collaborations, potential international partnerships, development of new techniques for enhancing quality in production, establishing dialogue with international counterparts to better understand the different models of financing, production and distribution. Also, meeting people from all over the world that come to Nigeria to get a feel of the local content while watching movies from different parts of Africa and the world, coming together to continue to develop the industry in peace and celebration. They will also have the opportunity to participate in hands-on workshops to further develop audio/visual techniques to continue to raise the industry quality standards. ION’s workshop series will be for the industry professionals and film students with world-renowned instructors such as Rolfe Kent who is a Golden Globe nominee speaking.